Making Money _Lots of It_ in Professional Football in the Late 1940s

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					                                                        Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

Making Money (Lots of It) in Professional Football in the
 Late 1940s: The Case of the 1946 Cleveland Browns
                              Melvin L. Adelman
                              Ohio State University
                                Columbus, USA

In its first season, the Cleveland Browns of the newly created All-America
Football Conference (AAFC) averaged over 55,000 fans per game for its seven
home contests. Despite the highly impressive numbers, nearly double the figure
claimed to be the breakeven point for pro football teams in the immediate post
World War II era, the press generally placed the team's profits at the
ridiculously low figure of between $3000 and $5000. What made this vision
seem reasonable was the notion that the high start up costs of this new
enterprise, the economic problems of the AAFC and that club owner Mickey
McBride had spent lavishly to promote the club initially, had severely eroded
the black side of the ledger. What made this assertion even more plausible was
the long accepted view that pro football was hardly a profitable investment and
that even the few successful money making clubs did so on a limited basis and
that escalating salaries resulting from the challenge of a new league was hardly
conducive to any dramatic increase in a team's profit margin.1
       In this paper, I employ what I call 'inferential economics' to reveal the
discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality of the Browns financial picture.
Inferential economics is an approach I designed in my forthcoming study of the
AAFC as a means to help overcome the problems created by the paucity of
financial data on pro football. I envisioned it as an effective way to facilitate the
creation of an estimate of the revenues and expenditures (R&E) of each AAFC
team. Despite the fact that there was no complete set of data for any one team,
there were sufficient bits of economic information on pro football teams in the
immediate post World War II period to create reliable and useful estimates of the
R&E of AAFC teams. My fundamental premise was that I could infer estimated
income and costs for teams for which such information was unavailable from
teams for which data existed on various R&E components. Several factors
contributed to my comfort in making what I felt were good educated guesses. One
was that it was tied to the gestalt I had created by immersing myself in the
conventional primary sources. Second, in all cases I erred on the side of caution as
I expanded expenditures and limited income. Finally, I was concerned with
constructing realistic estimates, not reconstructing truth.2
       While I envisioned inferential economics more as a vehicle to assist in
creating a more textured analysis of the AAFC than the construction of a precise
financial assessment, I was most confident in the numbers when I dealt with the

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

Browns since there was more 'hard' data on them than on any other team in the
Conference, including a list of the salaries of most players. From what economic
data existed on the team and from what could be inferred from other pro football
clubs in both leagues at the time, I was able to construct an estimate of the Browns
1946 revenues and expenditures. In the former category I estimated its income
from home, away and preseason games as well as money generated from radio,
concessions and its participation in the championship contest. In the latter
category, I looked at salaries, travel, training, and equipment costs, fees paid to the
league and park expenses.
     In contrast to the contemporary portrait of Cleveland's finances, my figures
reveal quite a different picture one in which I estimated that the Browns made a
robust profit in excess of $240,000 (see Table 1).

         Table 1: Cleveland Browns 1946 Estimated Revenues and Expenditures

           Announced                                399,963
           Estimated                                383,580
           INCOME                                   $779,530
           Home                                     $509,644
           Away                                     $142,213
           Preseason                                $ 48,074
           Concession                               $ 42,995
           Radio                                    $ 17,500
           Championship                             $ 19,104
           EXPENDITURES                            $538,080
           Fees                                     $ 65,841
           Salaries                                $ 263,000
           Operational                              $ 65,000
          Travel                                    $ 42,649
          Training                                  $ 25,000
          Equipment                                 $ 10,000
          Park Expenses                             $ 4,305
          Promotion                                 $ 48,000
          Other                                     $ 14,285

          PROFIT                                   $ 241,450

                                                       Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

       What follows in this paper is an exploration into how I reached this
conclusion. My road map takes us on three journeys: First, it begins with a lengthy
look at how I created the estimates of R&E of the Browns; second I then do the
numbers, examining the estimated finances of the team; and finally I briefly
explore the meaning and implication of the numbers for understanding pro
football and the AAFC-NFL conflict in the immediate post World War II years.

Creating the Numbers
In the years prior to television, gate receipts from home and away games
constituted the lifeblood of professional sport teams and for the Browns they
comprised nearly 85 percent of its estimated income. To generate Cleveland's take
for each of its seven home and away games, I needed the following information:
game attendance, price per ticket; the league and rental fees; and the breakdown of
 the visitor's share. Attendance for each Cleveland home game was reported in the
 press and from the outset the team was immensely successful. It drew reportedly
over 60,000 to its home opener and twice during the season it attracted over
70,000 fans to cavernous Municipal Stadium. For the year, the Browns home
 attendance was reportedly 399,963 for a per game average of 57,138. What made
 these exceedingly impressive numbers so gleeful for AAFC boosters was that it
took place in a city that the NFL had just abandoned because it claimed that
 Cleveland could not support pro football.
        Cleveland's attendance figures, and those of other Conference clubs even
more, must be viewed with a healthy skepticism as padding was a common
practice as both the AAFC and its NFL rival sought to place its team in a
favourable light. Since the numbers were inflated, I adopted several procedures
to adjust for the inflation. Where reporters expressed doubt about the
announced attendance at a particular game and offered their own estimate of
the crowd, I used their lower figures. On two occasions, both in 1946, reporters
corrected a team's annual numbers. One Buffalo scribe asserted that the home
team inflated its numbers by 9126 or 7.7 per cent of the announced attendance.
The other, Francis Lewis of the Cleveland Press, claimed that the Browns
overstated its attendance by 16,383 or roughly four per cent. Since Lewis did
not give a game-by-game breakdown, I simply subtracted 2341 from the
attendance figure for each Browns game. Finally, I used the Browns four per
cent inflation as a starting point to gage the level of inflation for other AAFC
clubs. For New York, Brooklyn and Chicago, where the two leagues directly
competed and where the practice of padding was reported to be more
widespread, the figure was increased to five, six and eight per cent,
respectively, and I decreased the announced attendance for each of these home
games by the per cent listed except in those cases where the press insisted that
there was an even larger drop in the number of spectators in attendance.
       Admissions are one side of the revenue equation, ticket prices are the other.
To uncover the revenues each AAFC team generated from its contests, I began by

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

estimating its after taxes average ticket prices (ATP). Here as usual only a few
nuggets exist, but they were sufficient to build a profile of each club's ATP. There
was also by far more fiscal information on Cleveland than any other Conference
club, largely because its attendance and the financial largess that followed was a
source of confirmation for AAFC supporters and the home-town audience. The
data provided the gross receipts of several Browns contests. When divided by the
announced number of spectators, the average price varied from $2.09 to $2.35,
with an overall average of $2.235. If six per cent of each Browns' (and every other
teams) ticket cost went for various taxes, Cleveland's estimated ATP was $2.10.
        There was some ticket price information for other AAFC teams, the Colts,
49ers, Chicago and Los Angeles. For example, in 1949 Baltimore's president
 asserted that his club's ATP was $2.02. Financial data for the other clubs
produced lower estimated yields, with ATPs of $1.91, $1.575 and $1.73 for San
Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago respectively. For AAFC club in New York,
Brooklyn, Buffalo and Miami, there was no specific ticket price data, but an
estimate ATP could be constructed by looking at what general information existed
on these teams and compare it with those clubs for which an estimate ATP has
been created. For example, the cost of seeing the New York Yankees seemed
within the Browns' price range. Like Cleveland, the Yankees were successful
(twice winning its division), played in a city where high ticket prices were the
norm and although its cost was less than for the NFL's New York club, the New
York press never mentioned that seats at Yankee Stadium were cheap. In addition,
one reporter claimed that the Yankees grossed around $460,000 in 1946. The
amount appears on the high side as even the club's announced attendance would
have yielded a 2.22 ATP. However, a 2.08 ATP, somewhere between Cleveland
and Baltimore, albeit closer to the former than the latter, provides a conservative
but good ballpark figure for the price of a Yankee ticket.
        There is only one reference to how home and visiting AAFC teams shared
their gate receipts, beyond the Conference's bold announcement almost
immediately following its formation that it guaranteed visiting teams $15,000, five
thousand more than its NFL rival. It stated that the visitors would receive either
the guaranteed money or forty per cent of the gate after the home team deducted
for taxes and rental. The situation closely approximates how the NFL divided in
dollars and for which specific league data does exist and I worked on the principle
that in this matter both leagues were essentially similar. In the NFL, a visiting
team had the option of taking the guarantee or forty per cent of the gross revenue
after the home team made the following deduction: all taxes; fifteen percent of the
after taxes revenues; and the league fee of four per cent of the first after taxes
$10,000 in receipts and two per cent of the remaining revenue. The fifteen per cent
deduction is the only place where the NFL and AAFC may have varied. Since all
NFL clubs (except Green Bay) paid this percentage in rental fees, this deduction
no doubt represented this outlay. In the AAFC, far greater differences in rental
fees existed and there is no information on whether this deduction was based on a

                                                        Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

 team's rent or a universal percentage. In most cases, selecting the deduction based
 on the rental fee paid would make only a slight difference in a team's revenue, but
 this was hardly true for Cleveland where for the 1946 season a flat fifteen per cent
 deduction, rather than its rent rate, would have netted it a substantial additional
profit. In the absence of specificity but forced to choose, I selected to base this
deduction on the actual rental fee. This procedure limited the profits/losses of
teams with favourable rental agreements, but it did not impact my overall
assessment of the AAFC's financial condition and often this procedure was off set
by the fact that the better off clubs, as we shall see, were at times called upon to
bale out their less fortune brethren.
        Money from radio provided a small supplement to the earnings pro football
teams made from gate fees. Specific dollar amounts exist only for 1949 and
Cleveland self reported receiving $20,000 in radio rights that year. Since it is not
known what they obtained in prior years, I downgraded the Browns by $2,500 for
its initial season. The Browns favourable rental deal also contributed to it
receiving a larger share of the concession money than most if not all clubs in both
leagues. Since professional football teams did not own the stadiums they played
in, revenues from concessions went to the owners of the parks, whether private
entrepreneurs or municipal governments, with the notable exception of the sale of
programs and the accompanying advertising revenue. The Browns, however, split
the Municipal Stadium money with the city. While there was no data on how
much each spectator spent on concessions and parking for 1946, fortunately that
information did exist for Municipal Stadium for 1961 through 1963. During these
three years, the Browns take was 14 cents per attendee and I dropped this number
in half to estimate its 1946 share of the concession and parking money.9
        Programs were generally priced at a quarter, although there were minor
 variations in the share each club received because of differences in what vendors
 obtained from selling the product and/or the percentage ballpark/owners took from
the receipts. Despite differences among teams, George Marshall's figures for his
Redskins appear representative. Marshall received $13,000 from the sale of
programs and $11,000 from the sale of advertisement. His share for each program
sold was 19.5 cents, with the vendor keeping the difference. Dividing Marshall's
revenues by the per program price indicates that he sold 11,111 programs per
game, or to nearly forty per cent of the attendees. It cost Marshall eleven cents to
print each program, or $10,000 for the 91,000 programs printed. Subtracting this
cost from the revenue left Marshall with a net program profit of $14,000.10
        While there is no specific data on how much the Browns or any AAFC club
earned from program sales and the accompanying advertisement, the Washington
example facilitates a viable estimate. It is doubtful that any AAFC team obtained
the same amount of advertisement dollars as such a venerable NFL team as
Washington. Nevertheless, it probably received at least half that amount ($5,500)
given the booster spirit associated with many of the teams and that much of the
advertisement dollars came from businesses with a vested interest in the team.

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

       There is no reason to suspect that the cost of a program in an AAFC park
differed from an NFL one, that its printing cost varied, that there was significant
variance in the division of money from program sales from what existed in
Washington, or that AAFC fans bought programs at a rate less than NFL ones.
Nevertheless, as an expression of my policy of caution, I slightly dropped the
AAFC rate to three out of eight, even though the Washington figure may have
actually been small as the Eagles management insisted that half its customers
bought a program. The most difficult question revolves around the issue of cost
overrun, which in Marshall's case was over 24,000 and nearly $2,700, or virtually
twenty per cent of his program profits. Marshall's huge error in the number of
printings was no doubt linked to the significant drop in his team's attendance
(nearly 5,000 per game) from the previous season. While his overestimation was
probably an anomaly, every team printed more programs than it sold. Accounting
for the amount can only be guesswork, and here I estimated that each AAFC team
printed ten per cent more copies than were bought.11
       Conference clubs obtained revenues from exhibition games, albeit generally
a limited amount. Arch Ward, the pivotal figure behind the AAFC's formation,
always insisted that one of its major weaknesses was its failure to exploit
preseason games. Whereas NFL clubs often used such contests to cover their
training camp costs and begin the season in the black, this was far less an
occurrence in the AAFC. Attendance figures for AAFC exhibition games were
limited, the revenues they generated even more so, and there was no transparency
of the various fees paid or how the teams divided the revenues. While preseason
revenues were the most difficult R&E category to estimate, I decided to estimate
their after expenses receipts an AAFC team received for exhibition games at
$12,500 or half their training camp costs. There were exceptions to this scant
amount and where there was such information, I naturally enhanced the preseason
revenues of the respective teams. One exception was the 1946 exhibition game
between Cleveland and Brooklyn held in nearby Akron Ohio, which attracted a
reported crowd of 35,964 and supposedly grossed over $100,000. Since the stated
receipts would have required at minimum a pre-tax ticket price of $2.78, far in
excess of Cleveland's season price, the dollar data must be revisited. To estimate
Cleveland's take, I reduced the attendance by the Browns four per cent figure and
based the revenues generated on its 2.10 ATP. I worked on the assumption that the
league fee was the same for exhibition and regular season games, but I had no data
on what cities charged football clubs to rent their stadiums for preseason contests
or even whether it was a flat fee or percentage of the gate. I strongly doubted that
Akron charged the fifteen per cent that major league ballparks charged their NFL
renters since it was not major league, that the Akron-Canton-Massillon areas was
Paul Brown territory, and especially since McBride had business interests in the
Canton-Akron. While I would not be shocked to learn that Cleveland paid a
straight fee or the same six per cent it paid Municipal Stadium, to be on the
cautious side I estimated the rental fee at nine per cent (a fifty per cent increase

                                                       Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

over its seasonal fee) and presumed that it took none of the concession money
except for the revenue from the sales of program following the same procedure
used to estimate its income from this endeavor. I also doubled what Cleveland
normally paid for park expenses and while it was quite possible that the team
bused to the game from its nearby training camp on the same day, I deducted my
average estimate for hotel and meal money of $1,135 (see below). As for the
preseason division of revenues among the teams, I found only one example, a
1950 exhibition between Baltimore and San Francisco, but I suspect that it is a
representative depiction of the procedure. In this case the home team arranged the
contest and offered the visitor a flat guarantee, described as the unusual amount of
$22,500. The 49ers largess had less to do with its quality as a draw and more to
entice it make the costly coast-to-coast trip. While I believe that the AAFC likely
adopted the same procedure, in the absence of any specific information on the
amount or range of the guarantees, I estimated the visitors take at 25 per cent (in
contrast to the season forty per cent) of the estimated receipt minus expenses.
       Finally, involvement in the championship expanded Cleveland's coffers.
While there were fairly accurate press report about the receipts of such games and
broad discussion of the financial breakdown, how much went to each participating
club is not known. As such I gave each club $15,000 beyond expenses and since
the 1946 contest was held at Municipal Stadium added concession and program
money to the Browns take. I generally followed the usual season procedures but
raised the percentage of programs sold to 45 per cent midway between the claims
of Washington and Philadelphia as I presumed spectators were more willing to
buy on these special occasions.
       Salaries were far and away the largest component of the expenditures of
teams. About the salaries of football players in immediate post World War II, we
know that there was universal agreement that the emergence of AAFC
dramatically drove them up. We fortunately have numbers for some teams during
these years, especially from the NFL, but for this period, the most comprehensive
set of salary information for any pro football team exists for the Browns as a
document in the Pro Football Hall of Fame contains the salaries and signing
bonuses of its players for the years 1949 and 1950. The list also included the same
information on players who played from 1946 through 1948 and were still on the
active roster in the subsequent two years. Since there was significant continuity
among the Browns personnel, especially among its stars, all of whom were with
the team during its four AAFC years, the data permits the creation a very
confident approximation of the Browns payroll and for its first season and I
approximated its players payroll at $209,000.
       Cleveland's payroll was expanded by $54,000 to cover the salaries of
coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and trainers. When Paul Brown signed as the
club's head coach for $25,000, he emerged as the highest paid member of his
profession in pro football, a point the Conference proudly trumpeted. I estimated
the salary of an assistant coach at $6,250 based on the average pay of the two

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

assistant coaches listed in the Philadelphia Eagles' affidavit in the Radovich case.
This is the only data for this position, but their affiliation with a championship
club suggests that the amount was at least representative and maybe on the high
side. Although the Philadelphia deposition noted only two assistants, most NFL
clubs had three such coaches. AAFC teams probably followed the prevalent NFL
pattern, but Cleveland actually had four. The cost of scouting varied widely
among NFL teams with outlays as low as $3,900 and as much as $10,000
including travel expenses for the 1949 champion Philadelphia Eagles. Cleveland's
scouting procedures differed from other clubs as its coaches doubled as scouts,
which may explain why it had four assistants. I charged the Browns $1,500 (which
Philadelphia outlaid) for scouts' travel expenses. Finally, one writer gave a
$10,000 fee for trainers, but given the cost of an assistant coach this is dubious,
and they more likely received no more than a quarter of that fee or $2,500.
           While salaries were by far a team's largest expenditure, there were
other outlays including rental fees. I already noted that contributing to the
Browns' huge profitability was a very favorable rental deal in which it paid
only a six per cent fee. How McBride obtained this arrangement is not known,
but his connections to Cleveland politics in all likelihood played a contributing
role. A more vital factor, however, was the general non usage of Municipal
Stadium by the city's professional baseball and football teams. Prior to World
War II, Cleveland's teams in both sports usually disdained the big ballpark on
the Lake for the smaller League Park. Given these conditions, city officials
were more than happy to obtain a tenant for Municipal Stadium and willingly
provided it at a bargain rate. The advantages of the Browns' more favourable
deal were quite apparent to the lament of writers in its west division rival city
of San Francisco. For example, in 1946, the Browns paid nearly $1,500 less in
rental fees than the 49ers even though it drew more than twice as many fans to
its home games and had an estimate ATP that was nine per cent higher.
        Travel costs were a constant concern for the coast-to-coast Conference.
There was no specific data on the travel expenses of AAFC teams, but it does exist
for a couple of NFL ones. The Giants travel expense for the 1949 season was
$11,596. Philadelphia paid roughly the same amount, outlaying $13,544 in 1949
and $11,008 in 1950. The Giants also declared that it paid $5,674 for hotels and
players meals. Data did not exist on any other club's total outlay for these
expenses, but in 1950 NFL teams reported on the daily cost of a double hotel
room in their respective cities and their contributions to the meal money of the
players. While costs varied from city-to-city and from team-to-team, the Giants'
expenses were representative and somewhat on the high side.
        Knowledge of the Giants' expenditures on travel, hotels and meals
facilitates the construction of an estimate of what AAFC teams paid for these
expenses. As the Giants made five road trips its average cost per trip was $3,450.
Since the Giants traveled exclusively by train, it is necessary to account for the
cost Conference clubs incurred when they flew. Cleveland stated it paid a $1.90

                                                         Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

per air mile. Since airline prices varied, I increased its fee by a dime and used the
Rand-McNally road map to provide the miles between cities. By this method, a
New York-Los Angeles roundtrip flight cost $11,300, within the $10,000-$12,000
range reporters insisted was the price of such travel. This method does not work
for shorter flights. For example, a Pittsburgh to Philadelphia round trip would
calculate at $1,232, but Art Rooney placed the price at $2,640. As a result for
flights of less than 2,000 miles, I added $1,500 to the two dollars per mile price.
        While AAFC teams used both air and rail travel, I needed to determine
when they went by plane or train. This was less of an issue for Cleveland as there
is evidence that the club flew regularly, although it most likely took the train for
the short hop to Buffalo. Additional travel expenses need to be accounted for as
AAFC teams often doubled up to avoid the heavy cost of coast-to-coast flying as
the Brown did when it played on consecutive weekends in Los Angeles and San
Francisco. I used the Giants numbers to calculate the cost of moving the team one
way by train and an extra week of hotel and meals.
        Football clubs incurred other operational expenses. Figures for the Green
Bay Packers in 1950 offer useful insight into these expenses and provide an
estimate of a team's operational cost. When these numbers were totalled they
came to the tidy sum of virtually $55,900, and included, for example, $12,750 for
entertainment; about $1,600 for legal fees and league meetings, and $23,000 for
insurance and unemployment compensation. To these numbers I added $9,100 for
various office staff workers, rounding the figure to $65,000. The cost of publicity
and promotion also revealed somewhat of a range among NFL clubs, from
$15,000 for the Giants to $25,000 for the Eagles. In 1950, however, the Browns
placed its outlay at even a higher figure of $32,000. For the 1946 season, I added
another $16,000 (half its declared amount) to the Browns' promotional number
given all the talk of the vast sums of money McBride spent to publicise his team.
        Training camp cost clubs an estimated $25,000. This figure derived by first
multiplying sisxty players at camp, by 28 days by the cost of eight dollars per day
per player, a close approximation to what NFL teams reported as the cost for this
expense. To this amount of $13,440, I added $1,000 per week for the rental of
facilities, although no specific data existed on this cost. The remaining money was
expense of bringing players to camp, which was roughly the average NFL outlay
for this cost. One journalist placed the price of new equipment for a football club
at $5,000. While reporters often overstated operational costs, I doubled this figure
for the Browns' first year. Finally, clubs incurred a variety of park expenses,
among them the cost of ticket takers, ushers, field markers and police. Data from
NFL teams reveal a wide range in these outlays, with New York and Washington
paying as little as $900 and $1,000 per game, respectively, while others teams paid
over $4,000. Cleveland's favorable stadium deal, however, significantly reduced
its costs here as it paid only $540 per game in park expenses and another $75 per
game for the city to audit the receipts from the gate and concessions.19

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

Doing the Numbers
The huge throngs that flocked to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium in the Browns
initial season, exceeding 50,000 in five of its seven home games, laid the
foundation for the team's exceptionally lucrative year. Table 2 provides a financial
breakdown of the revenue generated from the Browns' home games. It shows that
it generated estimated gross revenues after taxes of $805,510 from which it paid
visiting clubs a total of $295,866 leavings McBride's men with an estimate
income from home games of $509,644. From this amount the Browns paid
$65,841 in league and rental fees and a nominal $4,305 in park and audit
expenses, resulting in an estimated profit from home games of $439,500. To give
this number a richer context, it more than doubled what the club outlaid in player
salaries. The numbers would have been even higher if the AAFC did use the exact
the same breakdown that the NFL employed in sharing the revenues between
home and visiting clubs. If the Browns took fifteen per cent off the top rather than
its six per cent rental fee from the revenues visiting teams drew their percentage, it
would have added nearly $29,000 to its home game coffers. If this procedure was
in effect some of this amount would be offset by reductions in take home pay in
Buffalo and New York, neither of whom had the fifteen per cent rental fees but
even after the approximate $5,115 decline the Browns would have had an
estimated $23,900 more on the black side of its ledger.20

Table 2: Estimated Revenues of Browns 1946 Home Games
     Team     Estimated     Revenue        Rent       League        Park      Visitor's     Browns'
              Attendance                               Fees       Expenses     Share         Take
Miami         57,795       $121,367.40 $7,282.04    $2,627.35    $615.00     $44,583.20   $76,784.20

New York      54,744       $114,962.40 $6,897.74    $2,499.25    $615.00     $42,226.16   $72,736.24
Brooklyn      41,372       $86,881.20   $5,212.87   $1,937.62    $615.00     $33,092.28   $53.788.92
Los Angeles   68,792       $144,463.20 $8,667.79    $3,089.26    $615.00     $53,082.46   $91380.74

San Francisco 68,045       $142,894.50 $8,573.67    $3,057.89    $615.00     $52,505.18   $90,389.32
Chicago       58,116       $122,043.60 $7,322.62    $2,640.87    $615.00     $44,830.04   $77,213.56

Buffalo       34,713       $72,897.30   $4,373.84   $1,657.95    $615.00     $25,546.20   $47,351.10
              383,577      $805,509.60 $48,330.57   $17,510.19   $4,305.00   $295,865.52 $509,644.08

The Browns took in only an estimated $142,213 from its road contests, a per game
average of $20,316. (see Table 3) In fact, in three of its seven games Cleveland
went home with only the guaranteed money. The limited road revenue is hardly
surprising since the Conference in 1946, sans Cleveland, had an estimated home
attendance of slightly more than 18,900 per game. Nor is it difficult to understand
why Paul Brown became so quickly disillusioned with the AAFC in light of the
estimated $153,653 difference between what visitors took from Municipal
Stadium and what his club brought home from road games.21

                                                                Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

Table 3: Estimated Revenues of Browns 1946 Road Games
     Team      Estimated      ATP      Revenue     Rental Fee     League      Brown's
               Attendance                                          Fee         Share
 Miami         8,538        $1.50    $12,807       $3,000.00    $ 512.80    $15,000.00

 New York      32,539       $2.08    $67,681.12    0.00         $1553.62    $26,451.00
 Brooklyn      14,394       $1.73    $24,901.62    $3,735.24    $ 698.03    $15,000.00
 Los Angeles   21,222       $1.575   $33,424.65    $5,013.70    $ 868.49    $15,000.00

 San Francisco 39,419       $1.91    $75,290.29    $11,209.54   $1705.81    $24,916.38
 Chicago       47,805       $1.73    $82,702.65    $12,405.40   $1854.05    $27,377.28
 Buffalo       29,000       $1.82    $52,780.00    $ 5,278.00   $1255.60    $18,498.56
               192,917               $349,587.33   $40,641.88   $8,448.40   $142,213.16

The Browns were able to partially compensate for its limited take in road revenue
with a relatively lucrative exhibition contest in Akron. Table 4 shows that an
estimate crowd of 34,525 generated estimated revenues of $72,502.50. After
subtracting various expenses, the paying of the visiting Dodgers and adding the
money earned from the sales of programs, minus the cost of production, Cleveland
went home with a tidy estimated profit of $48,075. Concessions, the sale of
programs, again minus their cost of production, and their accompanying
advertising yielded another $42,995 in estimated revenues (see Table 5). Finally,
the Browns generated an estimate $19,104 from its participation in the 1946
championship contest with $4,179 of this revenue coming from its share of the
concession and program sales.
        In contrast to Cleveland's estimate $779,530 in income, the club had an
estimated $538,080 in expenditures with salaries constituting the largest share, an
estimated $263,000 or slightly less than half the total estimate for expenditures
(see Table 1). Of the Browns salary, an estimated $209,000 went to the players
with roughly $40,000, or slightly less than twenty per cent of the player's payroll,
going to signing bonuses for a significant number of them, including many of the
team's leading members, such as Lou Groza, Dante Lavelle, Marion Motley and
Otto Graham, to ensure that they joined the club after they completed their
military service. McBride's outlay was most likely larger than for any NFL club,
indicating that AAFC owners were willing at this point to outspend their senior
circuit counterparts. Despite Cleveland's large outlay, McBride was probably not
the Conference's biggest spender in 1946, being surpassed by pro football's two
wealthiest owners, Dan Topping (New York Yankees) and Ben Lindheimer (Los
Angeles Dons), with the latter having the reputation of being generous to a fault.
Both these and other Conference owners took a different approach to the signing
of players than did Paul Brown. Whereas several clubs sought and signed NFL
veterans, Brown went after first year players, a large contingent of whom played
for him at Ohio State or against him at other Big Ten schools. This approach
enabled him to ink three Future Hall of Famers, Graham, Groza and Motley, for

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

$7,500, $5,000 and $4,000 plus signing bonuses. While these and other Browns
were paid fairly well by the standards of the day, especially for rookies, by signing
still untested pros and by inking some early, he obtained them for what
performance wise proved to be less than their true market value.22

             Table 4: Revenue from Exhibition Game

                                           Revenue             Expenses
             Initial Revenue           $72,502.50
             League Fee                                 -$1,650.05

             Rent                                       -$6,525.23
             Park Expense                               -$1,040.00
             Visitor's Take                             -$15,821.81
             Browns' Share of          $47,465.41
             Concessions               $1, 743.76
             (see italicised)
                    * Advertisement $785.71
                    *Program Sales $2,524.67
             *Program Production                        -$1,566.62
             Travel Expenses                            -$1, 135.00
             Total Revenues            $48,074.17

Estimated Crowd Attendance: 34,525

             Table 5: Revenue from Concessions and Programs

             Browns' Share of Concessions                         $26,850.60
             Advertising From Programs                            $ 5,500.00

             Program Sales                                        $10,644.42
             (see italicized below)
                                No. of Programs Sold 143,843      $28,049.39

                        No. of Programs Produced 158,227          -$17,404.97

             Total Revenue                                       $42, 995.02

                                                         Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

         The remainder of the payroll went essentially to pay the salary of the head
 and assistant coaches, with $4,000 going to pay a trainer and cover scouting costs.
 I did not include in my estimate the five per cent of the profits that Paul Brown
received as part of his contract. Already the highest paid coach, his cut would have
generated an additional $12,072.50. If my estimates are correct, his salary and
bonus for 1946 came to the tidy sum of $37,072.50, far more than what he would
have received if he had stayed at Ohio State. I choose this direction since I was
more interested in understanding the financial condition of the club and the
Conference in general, not the technical bookkeeping side of the team. Training
and operational costs came to another $90,000. As spelled out when I did the
numbers on revenue generated from gate receipts, the Browns paid $65,841 in
rental and leagues fees and a measly $3,780 in park expenses. Operational costs,
training camp and equipment placed another estimated $100,000 on the red side of
the Browns' ledger.23
        From Cleveland's formation, its owner Mickey McBride was deeply
committed to heavily promoting his enterprise and he constantly won the praise of
the local press, who contrasted his effort with what they insisted had been the
lackluster work in this domain by the absentee owner of the NFL's Cleveland
Rams. While the press felt that the McBride's promotional campaign in Cleveland
and throughout Northeastern Ohio heavily contributed to the team's shrinking
profits in its initial year, there was not a single guess into his outlay. The 1950
report reveals, however, a McBride willing to spend to sell his team. If he spent
half the $48,000 estimated to be his 1946 promotional cost before his team played
its first game it would have been more than most NFL teams spend on promotion
in a year. When the bonus money for players is added to this $24,000, it is easy to
understand the press view, an accurate one at that, of McBride outlaying large
amounts of capital to build the best for his team and its fans. At the same time, it
should be emphasised that these start-up dollars are accounted for in my
        The Browns travel cost (see Table 6) was roughly the same as most
Conference clubs except its West Coast teams, but was dramatically higher than
for NFL clubs. In fact, the Browns cost to go to Los Angeles and San Francisco to
play consecutive games was more than the New York Giants travel expenses for
the entire 1950 season as it cost Cleveland $19,962 to fly to the West Coast, train
from one city to the next, stay for one week then fly back. These numbers amplify
why NFL owners had so vehemently opposed the placement of a club on the West
Coast and continually sought to keep their teams from playing in Los Angeles.
What made these high costs so acerbating was that for the two West Coast games
the Browns only brought back $38,716, not even twice their travel cost.25

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

Table 6: Travel Costs

     Destination     Miles     Travel     Transportation       Meals and       Total Costs
                               Method         Cost              Hotel
 Buffalo           191        Train       $2,264.00*         $1,135.00        $3,399.00

 Chicago           355        Fly         $2,920.00          $1,135.00       $4,055.00

 Miami             1235       Fly         $4,940.00          $1,135.00       $6,075.00

 New York          486        Fly         $3,444.00          $1,135.00       $4,579.00

 Brooklyn          486        Fly         $3,444.00          $1,135.00       $4,579.00

 Los Angeles       2366       Fly**       $4,732.00          $1,135.00       $5,867.00

 San Francisco     2480       Fly**       $4,960.00          $1,135.00       $6,095.00

 LA to SF                     Train       $1,160.00          $6,840.00       $8,000.00

                                          $27,864.00         $14,785.00      $42,649.00

* The Buffalo destination by this procedure would be slightly cheaper by plane than by train. I have
chosen the lesser price here.

** Both the flight to Los Angeles and back from San Francisco were one way.

Finally, the Browns paid one-seventh of the $100,000 the Conference gave Dan
Topping to quit the NFL and bring his newly acquired Yankee Stadium into the
AAFC. The significance of Topping's decision was clearly understood as virtually
everyone agreed that the AAFC could not survive without a New York team and
without the Topping move no large New York ballpark would have been
available. Until Topping bolted, the AAFC-NFL battle was one mainly of rhetoric
and possibilities, but Topping's action meant war. Arch Ward gleefully
maintained that Topping's move was 'destined to change the character of
professional football in the United States' and Conference Commissioner Jim
Crowley stated that the reason AAFC officials tendered such a lucrative offer was
because it enhanced 'the value of every other franchise in the new organization
since it would bring into the conference a much needed New York club'. While
Ward's perspective may have proven more correct if the AAFC had won the war
and while there was certainly merit to Crowley's assertion, several AAFC owners,
including McBride were less than pleased with the large amount of money the
man Tim Mara derogatorily described as the Poor Rich Boy extracted from them.
This was hardly the only and perhaps not the major reason for the feud that
quickly ensued between the Browns and the Yankees, but it certainly was a
contributing factor.

                                                        Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

Meaning of the Numbers
The discrepancy between the rhetoric and my estimates, the huge profits I claim
the Browns made, far larger then generally believed pro football teams generated
in this period, does create, I must confess, a moment of pause about the results and
the approach, especially in the absence of specific data. Nevertheless, I am
reassured by my long-term recognition that sport owners have been less than
forthright about the financial side of their teams and that until the past generation
journalists have by and large been more than willing to uncritically accept the
pronouncements of these entrepreneurs about the status of their business. I am also
buoyed, as I stated at the start of the paper, by those elements that contribute to
confidence in both the process and the numbers generated, especially that I
immersed myself in a vast array of primary sources and that I believe I erred on
the cautious side. Nevertheless, I am cognisant that my estimated profits surely do
not look like the figures one would find in its tax report given the multiple talents
of tax accountants. I am also absolutely certain that Paul Brown was correct in his
contention that McBride and the Conference's other financial angels (Lindheimer
and Topping) often dug into their pockets and, at times, profits to help their
financially strained brethren and the AAFC as a whole. Brown provides no
detailed information here and we do not know whether this money was used to
help a club overcome a cash flow problem or if the money was to pay off debts.
Yet I have no doubt that McBride paid a large share of the reportedly $80,000 plus
debt the Miami Seahawks left the AAFC when it collapsed after the 1946 season
and I would not be surprised to learn that his contribution was a quarter of this
amount or that the Browns did not receive any of the $15,000 minimum guarantee
when it played in Miami near the end of the season.27
        For several reasons I choose not to include this part of the economic
equation here. I had envisioned inferential economics more as a tool to assist me
in understanding the Conference's financial condition as a whole and in the larger
study the Seahawk debt is included in its estimated numbers, which reveal losses
even larger than the Browns profits. In addition, I was more interested in looking
at the R&E breakdown of a team than to account for the exact amount of money
McBride pocketed. What the numbers told me was of more significance than the
precision. In this light, what stood out for me was the size of the Browns numbers,
and when I had my doubting moments I posed the following scenarios. If I
overestimated the Browns' profits by 25 per cent, its net gain would have been
reduced by about $60,000 but the club would have still been over $180,000 in the
black. Even more revealing I feel is that if Cleveland's revenues were reduced by
ten per cent and its expenditures increased by a like percentage, shrinking its
profits by 55 per cent (and $131,761), Cleveland's estimated net gain would have
been roughly $109,700. Whichever way examined, the estimated numbers
indicate that the 1946 Browns made a significant amount of money.

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

        The Browns' financial largess was an anomaly in the first year Conference;
 not only in its size but that it made a profit at all. Of the AAFC's seven other
 clubs, all but one were in the red and the Yankees would have been in this
 condition as well had it not been for the money it was provided when it joined the
 new enterprise. Clearly it was Cleveland's cash that carried the Conference into its
 second of what would be its four-year history, and it is very possible that had it not
 done so well the AAFC may have died a quick death even though my estimate
 figures on the AAFC as a whole show that its losses where significantly less than
the press had pronounced.
        While Cleveland's figures were hardly representative of AAFC teams or
NFL ones for that matter, its numbers and inferential economics do provide a
valuable lens through which to create a more textured understanding of pro
football in the immediate post World War II years. For example, this approach
helped me gain a better handle on the AAFC's losses for its four years, and these
figures suggest that its demise was neither inevitable nor solely economically
driven. It also enabled me to more effectively address several other issues,
including one of the central themes of my larger work: how established and rival
leagues confront each other, and it allowed me to better explore whether the
AAFC erred by entering so many markets which already had NFL teams.28
        I hopefully provide interesting answers to these and other issues in my
larger study on the AAFC and pro football in the immediate post World War II
era. For the remainder of this paper I want to briefly look at how the Browns'
numbers yield valuable insights into the finances of a parallel NFL club, the New
York Giants and the implication of its numbers for comprehending the direction of
the AAFC-NFL war; and, what the numbers reveal about the economics of pro
football at mid-century and the general condition of the sport.
        Despite the Browns' very lucrative 1946 season, the honor of football's
 most profitable team that year no doubt went to the New York Giants. While I did
 not estimate the ledgers of NFL clubs, a cursory comparison of available data on
 both teams and the ability to infer led me to strongly believe that the New Yorkers
 made an estimate profit 25 per cent larger than Cleveland, placing it over
 $308,000 in the black (see Table 7). While both clubs had roughly the same
estimate attendance for seven home games, the Giants had an ATP placed at 65
cents more. The result was over $200,000 more than the Browns in its share of
home revenue receipts, but its larger overall income significantly shrunk as it
generated less road money as it played only four away games and produced no
concession or program money. While the estimated income of Mara's men was
 nearly $90,000 more than McBride's contingent, its estimate expenditures were
 only $23,000 more even though it paid nearly $183,000 in rental and league fees
 compared to only about $66,000 for the Browns. The Giants payroll, although one
 of the highest in the NFL, was about $20,000 less, it paid $33,000 fewer dollars in
publicity, had one-third the Browns travel bill and Mara definitely would not have
given Topping or his team a dime let alone an amount exceeding $14,000.

                                                      Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

               Table 7: Approximation of New York Giants 1946 Finances
                Announced            408,849
                Estimated            388,407
                INCOME               $870,024
                Home                 $714,064
                Away                 $94,460
                Preseason            $25,000
                Concession          $0
                Radio               $ 21,500
                Championship        $ 15,000
                EXPENDITURES         $561,696
                Fees                $ 182,980
                Salaries            $ 243,600
                Operational         $ 65,000
                Travel              $ 13,816
                Training            $ 25,000
                Equipment           $ 10,000
                Park Expenses       $ 6300
                Promotion           $ 15,000
                Other               $0
                PROFIT              $308,328

       The size of the Giants profits also produced the same moment of doubt.
This time I took a different route to re-examine the numbers based on a
comparative assessment on the 1949 profits the Philadelphia Eagles reported in
the Radovich case. For that year the Eagles stated that it earned $61,654 and had
gross admission receipts of $572,590. By contrast the 1946 Giants had estimated
post-tax admission receipts of $1,068,119. Even if the admission receipts are
viewed as similar, the revenue difference is $495,529. Since the home team took a
drop less than half the total post tax gate money, the 1949 Eagles would have
added another $247,765 to its coffers if it had the same gate revenue as the 1946
Giants, and this extra cash would have brought the Eagles profits to $309,419,
even more than estimated for the Giants. It is true that the Eagles played two more
road games than the Giants and from such contests would have generated roughly
$45,000 after expenses. Such shrinkage would have left the Giants with an
extremely impressive $265,000 in profit and it should be kept in mind that while
the Giants revenue stream was calculated on a very conservative 2.75 ATP, the
Eagles average pre-tax ticket price was $3.43. Whatever the precise amount, there
is no doubt that Mara's men made a whole lot of money in 1946.30

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

        Recognition of New York's very lucrative season is one way of better
 understanding how the economic numbers assisted me in creating a more textured
picture and in this case a different view of Mara, the Giants and the AAFC battle
than the one presented in the press and subsequently in popular histories. The
Giants exceedingly prosperous 1946 season provided Mara with a significant
cushion for the financially turbulent times that followed as a result of the ongoing
struggle between the leagues, the hefty amount he spent on new talent, the decline
of his team on the field and the dramatic drop at the gate. How Mara faired
throughout the remainder of the football war is not known for certain, but the
notion that he dropped a bundle during the late 1940s with one writer placing his
losses at $280,000 for the AAFC year and a club historian viewing the Giants as
nearly bankrupt by time the struggle ended must be viewed with a jaundice eye in
light of his exceedingly large 1946 profits. Similarly, the romantic image of Mara
as the hardheaded Irishman willing to spend his last dollar to defeat the upstart
Conference is refreshingly naive. For the Giants owner the battle with the AAFC
was always a mixture of the personal and the financial and the former always
influenced and at times clouded his judgment of the latter. It is one thing to
acknowledge this point; it is another to erroneously see this son of immigrants
(who spent twenty years building a family business and for whom passing it on to
his children was central to who he was) as Don Quixote willing to sacrifice all for
a noble cause. Rather Mara could continually maintain his hard-line stance
throughout the four-year struggle because the massive profits he banked in 1946
made this strategy that much easier to pursue and it surely comforted the blows of
the difficult times that followed and pointed to what might lay ahead.
        Similar to the Browns, the size of the Giants profits was an anomaly.
Unlike Cleveland's Conference counterparts, however, other NFL teams more
frequently found themselves in the black. While those on the right side of the
ledger included the usual money-makers, the Bears and Redskins, at least half and
probably more of the NFL clubs were to differing degrees in this situation as a
result of record attendance which witnessed a nearly forty per cent increase in the
number of spectators over 1945. The favourable condition enabled NFL owners
not to flinch in the face of the new competition and rising salaries, and it made it
relatively easy for the more prosperous and hard-line owners to convince their
colleagues to stay the course and see the Conference and its challenge as
something that would be short lived. In fact, one of the ironies of the football war
was that the AAFC was founded and legitimated by the vision that an emerging
post war economic boom would make it sufficiently fiscally sound to succeed and
challenge the hegemony of the NFL. It was the older league, however, that was
better situated to take advantage of the exploding economy, and the early benefits
(which hindered the AAFC from bringing the NFL to the bargaining table as
Ward had forecasted) remained throughout the conflict and left the NFL in a more
advantageous negotiating position even when the end of the boom by the onset of
the 1948 season began to severely alter the financial situation within the sport.

                                                        Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

        The estimated numbers also suggest that the press had little insight into the
finances of pro football and this lack of knowledge profoundly shaped their image
of the NFL-AAFC struggle. Writers treated football owners even more
romantically than their baseball counterparts, presenting them as involved in a
very risky business purely for the love of the sport and as men who generally
barely eked out a profit even in the best of times. My numbers, however, present a
different portrait and naturally lead me to a different perspective on the financial
condition of pro football in the immediate post World War II era. There is no
question that the extent of the profits the Giants or Browns generated were the
exception, and it would be a while before either team returned to those numbers
again. It is also true that wide variations remained in the financial fortunes of pro
football teams, that the war between the leagues limited profits and caused losses
in the ledgers of some NFL teams and most AAFC ones, and that this situation
became worse after the post War economic boom slowed down. Nevertheless, for
me a variety of economic numbers illuminate two critical and related points. One
is that by the late 1940s well-drawing and well-run football teams could produce
more than perfunctory profits and in fact provided their owners a tidy return on
their money. The second is that by the onset of the second half of the twentieth
century, pro football had achieved new heights of popularity as evident by the
rising number of spectators that attended its game, the dramatic expansion in the
press coverage it received and the greater potential entrepreneurs had for
economic return on their investments. While pro football still trailed baseball by
some distance in terms of public interest and its place in the American sports
psyche and while I am willing to accept Michael Oriard's assertion that it still
lacked the national attention of the college game, the foundation for its slow
ascendancy to its position as America's most popular sport was being poured in
the late 1940s. The story of the profits generated by the Browns provides a
glimpse into what was to come. While the incredibly successful marriage of pro
football and television in the 1960s jettison the sport to heights unimagined two
decades earlier, it could do so because the sport had already established a firm
financial footing as the numbers reveal. As for these numbers, I wish that as Casey
Stengal said, we could 'look it up'. Unfortunately, this is not the case. But with
scholarly integrity we can create, through methods such as inferential economics,
a useful way to glance at what those numbers may have been and thus achieve a
vision that facilitates a richer understanding of the development of pro football.

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns


A All-America Football Conference
N Bert Bell
CB Cleveland Browns

BE Brooklyn Eagle
BEN Buffalo Evening News
CHA Chicago Herald American
CN Cleveland News
CP Cleveland Press
CPD Cleveland Plain Dealer
CST Chicago Sun-Times
CT Chicago Tribune
GBPG Green Bay Post Gazette
LAE Los Angeles Examiner
LAT Los Angeles Times
MN Miami Daily News
NYHT New York Herald Tribune
NYJA New York Journal American
NYM New York Mirror
NYN New York Daily News
NYP New York Post
NYS New York Sun
NYT New York Times
NYWT New York World Telegram
PI Philadelphia Inquirer
PPG Pittsburgh Post Gazette
SFC San Francisco Chronicle
SFCB San Francisco Call and Bulletin
SFE San Francisco Examiner
SFN San Francisco News
SN Sporting News
WP Washington Post
WTH Washington Times-Herald

IWN In The Wake of the News
JITB Jack In the Box
Lwd The Lowdown
PD Plain Dealing
PWH Powerhouse
PS Press Sport
SA Sporting Additions
SC Sport Comments
SP The Sports Parade
Spsc The Sporting Parade (LA)

                                                                   Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

SPc Setting the Pace
ST Sports of the Times
VS Views of Sport

1. F. Lewis, 'PS', CP, 21 August 1947, A3, p. 46; E. Prell, 'All-America Conference', Street and
Smith, 1947 Football Pictorial Yearbook (New York: Street and Smith, 1947), p. 89; J. King,
'High Pressure Selling Job Puts Cleveland Pros Over', NYWT, 28 September 1946, A1, p. 193;
E. McAuley, 'Well Why Shouldn't McBride Draw Picnic Weather', CN, 30 December 1946, p.
20; W. Byers, 'Showdown in Pro Football', Liberty, 14 September 1946, p. 56; P. Zimmerman,
'Spsc', LAT, 28 January 1946, 1946-47 NFL Clips, p. 4; H. Wismer, The Public Calls It Sport
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965), p. 35; D. Camerer, 'Operation Football', Pic: The
Magazine For Young Men, October 1946, p. 27; V. Flaherty, 'L.A. Adds Ammunition to Pro
Football War', LAE, 25 October 1945, A1, p. 11; S. Woodward, 'VS', NYHT, 16 January 1946,
A1, p. 45; E. Prell, 'Pro Football In '46 A $5,000,000 Box Office Deal', CT, 24 March 1946,
A1, p. 58.

2. Newspapers yielded a variety of valuable pieces of economic information, but they must be
continually read with a familiar recognition of their limitations. A notable exception was the
publication of the R&E of the 1950 Green Bay Packers in the Green Bay Post Gazette. Since
Green Bay was publicly owned, this detailed balance sheet, I suspect, offers a fairly accurate
account of its finances. The article broke down the team's revenues and expenditures, including
it outlay for travel, its contribution to the NFL office, and the costs of a variety of other items
that could not be found in any other document, such as the amounts paid in unemployment
compensation and legal fees. See A. Daley, 'Bell To Decide NFL Divisions', GBPG, 23 January
 1951, N5, p. 253. While newspapers offered some useful information in assessing the finances of
pro football, several documents in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (PFHF) were of immense value
as they provided data on several dimensions of the economics of the sport. The Eagles' affidavit
in the Radovich case yields fruitful insights into the records of one team. In addition to its profit,
it gave for the 1949 and 1950 seasons the club's radio and television fees, travel expenses and
salaries of the head coach, two assistant coaches and a little more than half the players, including
most starters. See, William A. Radovich v. The National Football League. Deposition of Frank
L. McNamee – PFHF. Another document contained the 1949 and 1950 salaries and signing
bonuses of Cleveland players. The list had the same information for those still active Browns
players for the years 1946 through 1948. See Cleveland Browns, Active Players, Bonuses and
Salaries for 1946-1947 and - 1948 and Cleveland Browns, Inc. Team Payroll 1949 and 1950.
PFHF. The most significant document, an oasis in the midst of a dry desert, was the NFL
Business Managers Meeting held in March 1950, four months after the AAFC and NFL merged.
The meeting was designed to find out how each club operated so that the NFL could reach 'a
basis for a formula of operation that will be efficient, beneficial and economical for all' (p. 1).
Although not every team attended, and those present did not offer information on each issue
explored, the meeting covered an exceedingly wide range of financial topics, such as each
team's ticket prices and the amounts they generated in radio revenues to their respective rental
fees, takes from concessions, travel costs, and park expenses. See NFL Business Managers
Meeting, 3 March 1950, PFHF.

3. Even when the numbers of professional sport appear 'clean' they must be approached with a
dose of skepticism. Let me illustrate. In an affidavit, the Philadelphia Eagles claimed it made a
profit of roughly $61,650 in 1949 and about $73,000 the following year. I suspect the numbers
accurately project the club's books given the legal nature of the document. However, my trouble
with the figures is this: how did the Eagles' profits increase by only about $11,350 when its

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

home attendance rose by 41,456 and its gross receipts by $134,632. It is dubious that expanding
expenditures could account for the entire discrepancy. I offer a possible explanation of the
discrepancy in my forthcoming work on the AAFC as well as a fuller exploration into inferential
economic. See the Appendix: 'Financing Football: Show Me The Money'. Also see McNamee

4. 'Local Pride', CPD, 6 September 1946, A1, p. 136; H. Sauerbrei, 'Browns Show Record
60,135 Versatile Attack', CPD, 7 September 1946, A1, p. 138; F. Lewis, 'PS', CP, 7 September
1946, A1, p. 144; '71,134 Boost Browns Total to 232,066', CP, 21 October 1946, A2, p. 45;
'Tale of Two Cities', CPD, 15 October 1946, A2, p. 30; H. Goldstein, 'Exciting, Though
Puzzling This Big Time Football', CN, 22 October 1946, A2, p. 49; J. Williams, 'Mara Predicts
New Pro Loop Will Drop $1,000,000', NYWT, 26 October 1946, A2, p. 57; V. Flaherty,
'Browns Want to Play National League Pros', LAE, 24 October 1946, A2, p. 55.

5. F. Lewis, 'PS', CP, 10 September 1947, A3, p. 142; C. Kritcher, 'SC', BEN, 6 December
1947, A5, p. 12. For other citations to padding, see G. Kessler, 'Rocket bubbles deflates', CST,
23 October 1947, A4, p. 82; N.P. Clark, 'Colts Explode in 28-28 Tie With 49ers', AAFC 4, p.
14; D. Freeman, 'Sport Spurts', CS, 8 October 1947, A4, p. 19; G. Rice, 'SPc', NYS, 29 October
1947, A4, p. 107; B. Addie, 'SA', WTH, 27 October 1947, A4, p. 69; B. Lee, 'AAFC Plans Next
Move – Dallas', SFC, 12 October 1947, p. H4; T. Meany, 'AAC Making Progress In Its Second
Year', PM, 30 October 1947, A4, p. 110; T. Meany, 'Mara Pins A Rose on All-America
Conference', PM, 20 November 1947, AAFC, 4, p. 189; D. Eisenberg, 'Yanks Claim 70,060
Metropolitan Pro Grid Record', NYJA, 24 November 1947, A4, p. 201; R. Treat, CHA, 8
November 1947, N4, p. 142 There seems to be several reasons why reports about padding were
almost exclusively confined to New York and Chicago. One is that the practice appears to have
been more prevalent there as the competition between the leagues led owners to try to
demonstrate as much public interest as possible. Second, it was in these cities where NFL
owners openly questioned the numbers Conference clubs claimed were present. Finally,
reporters in dual league cities had greater latitude to challenge the figures as they were less
bound to a hometown team. This stood in marked contrast to cities such as Baltimore and San
Francisco where the booster press often functioned as a publicity arm of the local pigskin squad.
Los Angeles was the exception of the two-team city situation as there was no charges of padding
and in fact an attendance list of all sports events held at the Los Angeles Coliseum from 1946 to
1947 shows that the actual and announced attendance was virtually the same. I thank Bruce
Javitz for getting me the Coliseum list

6. For examples of reports of game receipts, see H. Sauerbrei, 'Browns Win 4th in a Row', CPD,
30 September 1946, A1, p. 197; 'Record Pro Crowd Sees Browns Win', NYS, 21 October 1946,
A2, p. 45; J. MacDonald, 'What a Job Counting It', SFCB, 1 November 1946, A2, p. 75; H.
Weisman, '80,067 See Browns Down Grid Yanks', NYM, 6 October 1947, A4, p. 13; A. Ward,
'Browns Beat 49ers', CT, 15 November 1948, 3, p. 1. The Browns provided a partial breakdown
of its prices and the number of seats available at that price. While it covered prices at the lower
end of the price scale it does point to the reasonableness of the 2.10 ATP assessment. See NFL
Business, 5. For a breakdown of one Browns game by the number of tickets sold at the various
prices, see F. Lewis, 'PS', CP, 10 September 1947, A3, p. 122. Lewis' figures show an average
pre-tax ticket of $2.35.

7. D. Eisenberg, 'Lay Plans For '49', NYJA, 17 January 1949, N2, p. 160; '49ers Gridders Drew
225,422 Customers', SFC, 17 December 1946, p. 3H; P. Sullivan, 'Lwd', SFE, 17 September
1946; B. Dyer, 'Coliseum Grid Crowds Averaged 40,000 Fans', LAT, 15 December 1948, A7, p.

                                                              Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

101; T. Mara, 'Why We Won The War', Sport, February 1950, p. 84; B. Yonkers, 'Bad News
for Bills', CP, 17 December 1948, A7, p. 107; Jack Sells, 'Football Footnotes', PPG, 20
December 1947, N l , p. 445.

8. National Football League Constitution and By Laws, 1946-1950; L. Cohen, 'SpP', NYP, 23
October 1946, A2, p. 52.

9. For radio money, see NFL Business, p. 17; McNamee Deposition; For the Brown's lease to
Municipal Stadium, see 'Cleveland Browns lease, 24 July 1947', Carl B. Stokes Manuscript
Collection, MS No. 4370, Container 29, Folder 524, Western Reserve Historical Society,
Cleveland, OH. For material on Brown's per spectator take of concessions and parking fees
from 1961 to 1963, see 'The Cleveland Browns, the City of Cleveland, and Municipal
Stadium', Stokes Collection, Container 29, Folder 524, WRHS. I am especially grateful to
Phil Suchma for bringing this material to my attention.

10. NFL Business, pp. 8-11.

11. For Eagles claim, see NFL Business, p. 10.

12. A. Ward, 'IWN', CT, 21 June 1951, N5, p. 317; P. Sullivan, 'LD', SFE, 31 August 1950,
N4, p. 128; 4 August 1950, N4, p. 144; 8 September 1950, p. 25.

13. Cleveland Browns, Active Players, Bonuses and Salaries for 1946-1947 and – 1948 and
Cleveland Browns, Inc. Team Payroll 1949 and 1950 – PFHF. My vision of NFL payrolls were
influenced by NFL Business, p. 21; McNamee Deposition; Daley, 'Bell', N5, p.253. Comments
on payrolls appeared from time-to-time in the press. Some were fairly accurate, others less so.
For some examples, see D. Parker, 'High Cost of Losing', NYM, 19 September 1948, A6, p. 8;
B. Gould, 'Grid Dodgers See Writing On Wall', BE, 1947, A4, p. 52; R. McGown, 'Yankees
Will Strive to Stop Graham's Passes', NYT, 20 November 1947, p. 43; Camerer, 'Operation
Football', p. 27; 'Tale of Two Cities', A2, p. 30.

14. For signing of Paul Brown and accompanying fanfare, see P. Brown with J. Clary, PB: The
Paul Brown Story (New York: Atheneum, 1979), pp. 121-22; J. Dietrich, 'Paul Brown Signs 5-
Year Contract to Coach New Pro Grid Team Here', CPD, 9 February 1945, p. 1; 'Paul Brown
Signs to Coach Pro Team', NYT, 9 February 1945, p. 20. Also see McNamee Deposition; NFL
Business, p. 22.

15. For San Francisco lamentations, see B. Spencer, 'The News Sport', SFN, 11 November
1948, p. 15.

16. NFL Business, pp. 14-16; McNamee Deposition.

 17. NFL Business, p. 15. In 1949, the Giants played technically six away games but one was in
the Polo Grounds against the New York Bulldogs.

18. NFL Business, pp. 13, 16-20; Daley,'Bell', N5, p. 253.

19. NFL Business, pp. 8-11, 20-1.

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

20. Buffalo and New York had less than fifteen per cent rental fees. Buffalo paid ten per cent,
whereas Topping owned both the Yankees and Yankee Stadium. While he may have technically
paid a subsidiary company, I was not interest in whether money flowed from one pocket to the

21. For Brown's discontent, see his autobiography, P.B, pp. 177-95.

22. See 'Cleveland Browns, Active Players, Bonuses and Salaries'. For my estimates of AAFC
payrolls by team, see 'Appendix'. For the press vision of Yankee payroll, see McGown,
'Yankees Will Strive', p. 43; J. Burchard, 'You Think You Got Inflation? Take A Look at Pro
Football', NYHT, 26 January 1948, A5, p. 81. For view that Lindheimer was 'generous almost to
a fault with players and money', see Brown, P.B., p. 176. For Dons signing thirteen former NFL
players in 1946, seven of whom were ex-Washington Redskins, see, 'AA Raids NFL', NYJA, 16
January 1946, A1, p. 48; E. Prell, 'Rockets' Wilkens, Dons' Artoe Set to Resume Feud', CST, 14
October 1946, A2, p. 9. Also see J. King, 'Brown Still Wins With Ohioans', NYWT, 25
September 1946, A1, p. 186; Brown, P.B., pp. 124-43.

23. For Browns, five per cent figure see Brown, P.B., p. 120.

24. For McBride as the great promoter, see F. Lewis, 'Browns Success Not Accidental', CP, 26
September 1946, A1, p. 183; King, 'High Pressure', A1, p. 193; M. Matthews, 'Hester Pledges
Changes After 44-0 Hawk Lacing', MDN, 7 September 1946, A1, p. 143. For anti Rams and
Reeves sentiments in Cleveland, see H. Goldstein, 'Whose Stadium?' CN, 9 January 1945, CB,
p. 5 ; H. Goldstein, 'Sweeting Parting', CN, 6 February 1946, CB, p. 51; J. Dietrich, 'JIB', CPD,
10 February 1946, p. 3C; 8 June 1945, CB, p. 29; G. Cobbledick, 'PD', CPD, 23 October 1945,
CB, p. 35; B. Yonkers, 'Browns Aim To Make Fans Forget Departed Rams', CP, 6 February
1946, CB, p. 50.

25. The savings by staying in California rather flying back to Cleveland and then returning
the following week was a lot less than I expected, only $1,692. For AAFC teams losing
money or making a modicum of profit the saving may be significant, but given the Browns'
financial situation the benefit was more that it allowed them to avoid the exhaustion
produced by back to back round trips. The minor savings does suggest that the NFL's
willingness to accept San Francisco into its league had less to do with its desire for a second
West Coast team to help clubs defray the cost of one of its teams traveling to Los Angeles
and more to do with the 49ers economic potential.

26. J. Drebinger, 'Topping's Eleven Joins New Circuit', NYT, 6 December 1945, p. 33; L. Rice,
'Topping Bolts to New Grid Loop', NYJA, 5 December 1945, A1, p. 17; J. King, 'Topping Quits
NFL, Joins New Pro Grid Loop', NYWT, 6 December 1945, A1, p. 17; A. Ward, 'Topping's Pro
Eleven Joins All-America', CT, 6 December 1945, p. 27; A. Ward, 'IWN', CT, 7 December
1945, p. 35; Byers, 'Showdown', p. 55; J. Drebinger, 'Yankees Contract For Stadium Lights',
NYT, 16 November 1945, p. 14; '100,000 Was Paid Topping to Switch', NYT, 11 December,
1945, p. 29; J. Cannon, 'Poor, Little Rich Boy Has Tim Mara's Scorn', NYP, AAFC, 1, p. 49.
For Mara's snipes at Topping for taking money, see James A. Burchard, 'Mara, Marshall and
Bell Hurl Harpoons at Admiral Ingram', NYWT, 10 October 1947, A4, p. 23. For anti-Topping
sentiment among owners, see E. Munzel, 'New York Players Cause First Rift in A.A.', CST, 6
January 1946, CB, p. 47; J. King, 'A-A Owners Meet to Mull Over Future', NYWT, 14
October 1948, A6, p. 65.

                                                                  Football Studies, vol. 7 2004

27. Brown, P.B., pp. 176, 189.

28. My data shows that what proved devastating to the AAFC were clubs that played in
cities that had three pro football clubs, as its Chicago and Brooklyn franchise were
responsible for half of its losses. The financial debacle of these teams led me to question
why didn't the AAFC relocate these club and speculate on what it fortunes would have been
if they had moved both Chicago and Brooklyn.

29. I took attendance figures for the Giants and other NFL teams in 1946 from J. Quirk and R.D.
Fort, Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports (Princeton NJ: University of Princeton
Press, 1992), p. 344. I subtracted the same five per cent for padding for the Giants as I did for the
New York Yankees of the AAFC. I based my calculation of Giants four road games on the
average attendance of its four Eastern Division opponents. I gave the Giants and other NFL
clubs an estimated ATP of 2.75, which from all I can gather on NFL ticket prices would be truly
on the very conservative side. The Giants broke down its 1946 payroll by the average price it
paid by position. To get the approximation I based my calculation on each player position by the
following: six ends, six tackles, six guards, three centers and twelve backs. I then took the
average salary of these 33 players and multiplied by three giving the team 36 players, one above
the roster limit. I gave the Giants head coach a salary $15,000, the same as Greasy Neale of the
Philadelphia Eagles, and assumed it had three assistant coaches. The trainer was given same
$2,500 as the Browns. I took other R&E information on the Giants from the NFL Business
Meeting. It provided 1949 data on travel, park and scouting expenses, promotion outlay and
radio money (which I place in 1946 at the same $4,000 more than the Giants made in 1950
compared to the Browns). I gave the Giants the same $15,000 for engaging in the 1946
championship contest. The Giants did not sell its own program or share in concession money. I
had no information on the revenue it took in from exhibition games but given the view that such
contests generated sufficient money to pay for training camp I placed it at the break-even figure
of $25,000. I kept operational expenses and equipment at the same prices as the Browns.

30. If the profits of 1950 Eagles ($72,978) profits on gross receipts of $716,590 were used
rather than its 1949 figures, the Giants would have banked $203,743 after accounting for the
Eagles two more home games.

31. For claims of Giants losses during AAFC years, see E. Sainbury, 'Bitter Pro Football War
Cost Magnates $9,000,000', PI, 25 December 1949, N3, p. 409. One historian of the team went
so far as to claim that by the end of the 1949 season the Giants were lucky to be alive and that
Mara had reportedly lost one million dollars. See B. Gottehrer, The Giants of New York: The
History of Professional Football's Most Fabulous Dynasty (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons,
1963), p. 217. For Mara as hard headed, see J. Williams, 'Yankee Stadium Was Main Key in
Football War', NYWT, 6 December 1945, A1, p. 22; A. Danzig, 'Pro Giants To Play Seven
Home Games', NYT, 30 April 1946.

32. For post-war boom and growth of pro football, see D. Daniels, 'Postwar Football Destiny',
NYWT, 3 August 1945, A1, p. 6; B. Leiser, 'SF, SFC, 17 September 1944, p. 1H; J. Powers,
'Pwh', NYN, 13 January 1946, A1, p. 39; B. Spencer, 'Crowley Arrives', SFN, 1946-47 NFL
Clips, p. 9; M. Woodward, '3 More Cities Ask Pro Grid Berths', Expansion Folder-1944, PFHF;
A. Daley, 'ST', NYT, 5 January, 1944, p. 12.

33. Michael Oriard asserts that it was not until the late 1950s, especially following the Colts-
Giants championship game, that there emerged a significant shift in the image of professional

The Case of 1946 Cleveland Browns

football in popular magazines. Oriard does recognise that the NFL attendance markedly
increased throughout the decade of the 1950s but does not take not of the tremendous growth the
sport enjoyed in the immediate aftermath of World War II. See his brilliant work, King Football:
Sport & Spectacle In The Golden Age of Radio & Newsreels, Movies & Magazines, The
Weekly & The Daily Press (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), especially pp.
215-18 and his Epilogue.


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